After last week's somewhat disappointing horror-fest, Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead marked a welcome return to the nuanced series the premiere had promised to deliver. It opens with the gruesome scene—not in the blood-and-guts sense, but in its horrific potential—of Dixon trapped on the Atlanta roof, seemingly on the edge of losing his senses ... and then zombies show up, clawing at the chained door in their frenzy to get to him.
I mean, just when you thought there wasn't any way you could have sympathy for a racist redneck asshole. Boom.
The show moves right into the emotional reunion between Rick and his family, which quite the scene considering Rick's wife has been sleeping with Shane, Rick's former police partner. (By the way, I'm so glad they didn't endlessly drag out the part where Rick's looking for his wife. Shows that push one plot point beyond all reason should be taken out back and head-shot. Sons of Anarchy, I'm looking at YOU.)
The wide-eyed mix of guilt/happiness/shock/etc. on Lori's face was exactly right, and even though I find her a little too Angelina-esque in her looks, I'm a fan of what they're doing with her character. She's not likable, but she wasn't in the comic either. She's kind of a bitch and kind of relatable in her love for her son and I think she's working the role well. I loved the complicated words-behind-the-words bit in the tent when she tearfully asked Rick if he wanted his wedding ring back.
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You know the Shane/Rick thing isn't over, right? Shane's brooding expression as he sat in the darkness by himself later that night, creepily backlit by lightning, may as well have broadcast the words FORESHADOWING: SHIT'S ABOUT TO GET REAL. (Also, whose shoes did Rick see in the tent? Were they Shane's?)
The reunion is short-lived, though, because Rick can't live with himself for leaving Dixon chained on that roof—or he wants to get the walkie-talkie to warn other survivors—or he wants to get those guns he dropped. It's a little hard to tell what's going on at this point, if we're supposed to be blown away by Rick's morality or his bravery or what.
A party is assembled to retrieve Dixon, and in the meantime there's a nerve-wracking scene at a nearby rock quarry where some of the women from camp are washing clothes. They're chatting and laughing with each other and it's one of those things where you're positive someone's about to get chomped by a surprise zombie but no, it's one of the living humans that causes the eventual violence and horror that unfolds.
The last five minutes rolled along like a freight train. The initially awesome, then wincingly hard-to-watch bit with Shane taking out his frustrations on the wife-beating jerk back at camp, then the seamless transition to Rick & Co. arriving on the Atlanta roof where we expect more blood and action, but find only an empty handcuff. And, of course, the severed arm that allowed Dixon his apparent escape.
I wouldn't put The Walking Dead on the same pedestal as other AMC originals like Breaking Bad or Mad Men—and the suspension of disbelief factor is getting rather high (how does a slow-ass zombie catch a deer? [Edited to add: Alert Reader Ross reminded me the deer was killed by Dixon's brother the bowhunter, which I'd forgotten about] How did Rick's group get back to that Atlanta rooftop with only having to dispatch, like, one zombie along the way? Why does Lori always say how she doesn't want Carl out of her view then sends him off on some long walk by himself?)—but I really enjoyed this episode.
The good news and bad news: there's only 3 episodes left (WTF?!), but it's been picked up for a 13-episode second season.
What did you think of this episode of The Walking Dead? Are you going to be watching next week?
Image via AMC